Archive | August, 2009

What Should Be Done About Scottish Football?

Posted on 30 August 2009 by JamesHamilton

This is really a placeholder from which you are to go to Rob Marrs’ post on the failures of Scottish football and their potential futures. But I have four thoughts to add.

  1. You won’t get Simon Clifford, as he has other fish to fry, but putting someone with that degree of genuine vision and that kind of strength of character and that depth of self-belief in unchallenged charge of youth development in Scotland would do the trick in, say, 12 years. Forgive me for such a crass observation, but there’s so much self-hatred around in Scottish football at the moment, and it’s so visibly getting in the way, that an out-and-out ego with talent and foresight, like Clifford, is badly needed.
  2. The Scottish football media are more excitable, more destructive in their criticism, more localised in their outlook and even more shackled by the past than their English counterparts: there are one or two exceptions, no more. Without the media’s cooperation to some extent, without some willing from that department, it will be very hard to change the atmosphere in Scottish football. There is no chance whatsoever of generating anything like that kind of cooperation from them. Not when there’s an Old Firm derby next week, like there was last week.
  3. There are actually quite a few groundbreaking youth schemes in Scotland, and more happening at club and school level, than meets the eye: things are already getting better.
  4. Managers. One thing about Scottish football of the last 15 years is that it has generated a lot of intelligent men who were violently dissatisfied with their playing careers. Result? There are rather more very good Scottish managers than English ones. Run the list through your head: Ferguson, Moyes, McCleish, Strachan, Levein, Coyle, young Walter Smith, Burley, Calderwood, Paul Lambert, the underrated Paul Sturrock. I’ll have missed more than a few. Darren Ferguson? Ian McParland, Alan Irvine, Billy Davies? There are, so far as I can see, only achievers in that list, and no sign of the timeserving visible in any equivalent list of English coaches.

Perhaps Scottish football doesn’t have the players – or perhaps it does, and it needs someone to tell them that they are players. But it certainly does have the managers. Scottish football has found some drivers, and that’s a start.

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Burnley 1920/1959/2009 Part 4

Posted on 29 August 2009 by JamesHamilton

*2pts for a win/3pts for a win

*2pts for a win/3pts for a win

Burnley 2009’s 0-3 defeat at Stamford Bridge this afternoon doesn’t quite have that bubble-bursting feel to it; it’s not their first defeat of the season, after all, and a three-goal reverse to a side who are inarguably one of Europe’s best – and who have played together at the top level for half a decade now – will happen to quite a few decent sides before the season is out.

And goalkeeper Jensen had another good day – will he prove to be the man who keeps them up? His 1959 colleague, Blacklaw, was applauded off at Goodison at the end of a blisteringly hot afternoon on which he’d kept Everton at bay (again! see match 2) for a 2-1 win. Keepers can win titles too – ask Brian Clough (and then you remember that we can’t. And it’s been a while now: there are children starting at primary school this autumn for whom he has always been dead). As it is, 1959 Burnley are keeping the pressure off Blacklaw by putting them in at the other end in astonishing style – eleven goals in four matches was a lot even for 1959.

This table can’t stay this way forever – the teams have stood in the same order for the whole of the first four fixtures. And things are stirring down in 1920: a 3-0 win at home to Huddersfield (which, if you’ve been paying attention, represents revenge) will, I can assure you, be the start of something big.

So what lies ahead for Burnley 2009? Owen Coyle has already talked the usual about “picking ourselves up,” but he and his team have the chance. The 2-1 Carling Cup win against Hartlepool on Tuesday means that defeat against Chelsea comes off the back of three straight if extremely sapping wins. And now they have a break: Liverpool are next up, but not for a fortnight.

Liverpool won today, but they’ll know how lucky they were to be facing 10 men when 2-1 down at Bolton. Before they meet Burnley, they have to nurse their players through World Cup qualifiers and an England friendly: Burnley, and this in a way illustrates what they are up against this season, don’t.

In order to achieve what they’ve set out to achieve, all Burnley have to do against Liverpool is fight: Liverpool actually do “have” to win. I’m more worried for Liverpool.

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Scotland 156 ao

Posted on 28 August 2009 by JamesHamilton


I’m promoting the headscratching Scotsmen. Gavin Hamilton looked good for a while, but otherwise Australia treated the Scottish innings as a gentle cleaning-up operation.

I didn’t hang around: Montezuma’s. But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It left me thinking that this is very much how cricket has been at the Grange this last century and a half, all watched over by that peach of a pavilion:


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Australia v Scotland: Aus 345 (49.6ov)

Posted on 28 August 2009 by JamesHamilton

Australia At The Grange 28 August 2009

Australia At The Grange 28 August 2009

It’s a strange sensation, this walking down my little village High Street at lunchtime, to find it full of smiling faces because the local side has just skittled the Aussies.

I’ve never seen Franco’s so full. Or heard San Marco so loud..

It wouldn’t have been fair to crop that picture as it begs to be cropped – to leave it sans yellow, nothing but headscratching Scottish cricketers. 345 is a thoroughly respectable score to hold Australia to, and whatever happens this afternoon, it’ll be something I and they will remember.

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Help Support London's Worst Football Team

Posted on 26 August 2009 by JamesHamilton

(UPDATE: Thanks Matt – taking earnings into account, the price of that 1920 pint would have come to c. £4.21. See the comments for more details. I’ll have a half…)

Nick Booth at Peter Watts’ Big Smoke Blog comes up with a piece of pure genius:

Could a crap football team be transformed into winners, by a fanatically supportive crowd?

Do you fancy finding out?

I’m looking for like-minded (disillusioned) football fans, who miss the days when fans got supportively behind their team, rather than gather menacingly behind the manager’s dug out.

I’m looking for supporters who fancy adopting an out-of-form team we can encourage. In the next few months, one team in the London area will sink to the bottom of their table. It matters not whether they’re in SE22, or NW20, just as long as they’re propping up their division. I don’t care whether the players are pro, or semi-pro, as long as they’re totally demoralised. This is where we come in. What an early Christmas present it would be, if hundreds (or even thousands) of fans suddenly got behind them, chanted their names and lifted them. Loudly.

It would be a good social event too. And I’m sure there’d be low prices and plenty of room at the bar.

Anyone fancy it?

Yes, but I’m in Edinburgh, dammit! And Scottish players never get demoralised, as you all know.

But if it’s cheap prices you’re after, we need a time machine. I’m imagining 40-50 modern fans showing up at e.g. Burnley 1920-21’s first three matches, all of them lost remember, and – in addition to the obvious “We’re going to win the League” – throwing in a host of modern chants, perhaps even a rendition of “Football’s Coming Home.”

In 1921, the average price of a pint was 7d – about 67pence today taking inflation into account but not the cost of living.

Anyway, Nick’s is a fine idea, and if you are in London, pop over to the Big Smoke Blog to give it your support.

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Burnley 1920-21, 1959-60, 2009/10 Game 3

Posted on 23 August 2009 by JamesHamilton

<UPDATE>: Thanks to Matthew I’ve now access to all of Burnley’s 1920-21 results via this remarkable website – for which much gratitude. It was a 2-0 defeat away to Bradford City. In general, league tables don’t make a great deal of sense until 3 games have been played, but here we are putting a modern side who are favourites to go down, allegedly the division whipping boys, up against two actual eventual title-winners. And they’re holding their own. So far.</UPDATE>

I’m having problems getting hold of the early 1920-21 results – things get simpler from game 4 onwards for reasons that will become clear – and all I know about game 3 in 1920 is that, yet again, the Clarets lost. Who beat them, and in what style, I’ll discover when the National Library of Scotland reopens tomorrow.

But 1959-60 lost too – 3-1 at home to a West Ham who were about to experience their classic decade. The modern team’s 1-0 win at home to Everton make the situation at the top of the mini table decidedly interesting:

*2pts for a win/3pts for a win

*2pts for a win/3pts for a win

Rather more interesting than the mini-table is the fact that Burnley are now halfway through their intense series of early matches and have won both of them. The pressure is off for the games against Liverpool and Chelsea – but so are the bets. What price another win, perhaps against Liverpool which would complete an unusual Merseyside double – and Burnley 25% of the way towards safety before the beginning of autumn?

To finish with, two interesting facts about Burnley that you might not have known. They were the first team to receive the FA Cup from the hands of the reigning monarch, in 1913. And, when the offside rule changed in 1925, they were the first team to experience the new law’s ability to generate high-scoring matches. They lost their opening game in 1925-6 to Aston Villa,  by ten goals to nil. Like Wigan against Manchester United, they didn’t play a bad game – it was merely a defensive failing, one which, of all managers, Herbert Chapman was shortly to experience as his new Arsenal side went down 7-0 to Newcastle.

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The 1936 FA Cup Final From The Air

Posted on 21 August 2009 by JamesHamilton

(UPDATE: As FA Cup Final Freddy says in the comments: FAIL – it’s Sheffield United, not Sheffield Wednesday. I’ll get me coat..)

They shut Pathe News out of the Wembley Final in ’36 – so the journos hired a gyrocopter, made their wills and took off…

It wasn’t altogether worth their while: Alex James scored the only goal of a grim game against Sheffield Wednesday. But time has passed, and now the film is full of interest. They never really did finish rebuilding Wembley’s environs after the Exhibition, and it shows.

It’s on Youtube, below, if you like, but this is your chance to get acquainted with Pathe News’ new archive website, where the clips are available to view in just staggering quality. There is a lot there, splendidly restored.  Click here and fullscreen the results. Here’s the muddier, shorter Youtube version, inferior in every respect.


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Another One Gone

Posted on 20 August 2009 by JamesHamilton


Whatever else might be said about “Will Rubbish” remember this: he created a superb group blog that had Terry Glavin and George Szirtes on board, real luminaries of whom you have heard, to say nothing of a substantial chunk of the real left-wing blogging talent. Peter, Shuggy, Eric, Hak, Spirit, Bagrec..

If things went downhill after that, well – British blogging as a whole has been in pretty obvious decline for the last 3 years. But if there was a blog that you didn’t expect just to blink out without warning, this was the one. Will’s readers, like Philip Larkin’s, will have to excuse the absence of the usual valediction.

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Burnley 2009, 1959, 1920: Match Two

Posted on 20 August 2009 by JamesHamilton

For some of us, the name “Robbie Blake” still means Bradford City, and Bradford, remember, beat 1920 Burnley in their opening game. His goal, and the class and courage on display from Clarke Carlisle and Brian Jensen in particular, have made it all the more important that the 1920 team assert themselves.

But the great thing about Burnley’s narrow win against Manchester United late last night, apart from the obvious point that Turf Moor could enjoy its return to the top flight in proper style, is that it means that Burnley can stop thinking about the past (and leave all that to me). If they can get at least another point from their games against Liverpool and Chelsea, they will be free to concentrate on squeezing the necessary out of the likes of Portsmouth and Hull – who are down already, surely?

It was an evening in which links between Burnley and Manchester United featured: John Connelly, who starred in the ’59-60 side, was present, and Chris Eagles on the bench. Somewhere nearby was another ex-United youngster, Richard Eckersley, a summer capture from Old Trafford who actually turned Ferguson down in favour of moving east.

What about the others? 1959-60 are off to a fine start, playing at home against an Everton coached by ex-United captain Johnny Carey, Stan Matthews’ nemesis in the 1948 FA Cup Final. Burnley were 3-0 up long before half-time, Pilkington making one and scoring another; after an Everton fight-back, Burnley ran out 5-2 winners. They still lead our mini-table.

1920 Burnley had a difficult task on their hands against Huddersfield Town at Leeds Road. This wouldn’t be Chapman’s Huddersfield for another year, and nor was it Clem Stephenson’s (both he and Charlie Buchan, another future Chapman star, played for Chapman’s wartime Leeds City side and were rumoured to have received unofficial payments). But the beginnings of what would prove an unprecedently successful side were there, and Burnley’s 1-0 defeat was bad for their mini-table standings but not an uncreditable result.

After two matches, the standings are:

*2 pts for a win/3 pts for a win

*2 pts for a win/3 pts for a win

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Burnley's 1973 Charity Shield

Posted on 20 August 2009 by JamesHamilton

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Burnley have the honour of being the last side from Division Two to lift the Charity Shield. The annual game was having dog days at the time, as the accompanying extract shows, but the result ties in with Burnley’s other distinction of being the only club to win every Division’s championship.

1972-3 was, in many ways, the last season of the “long 1960s”, and one wants to play the Ghost of Football Future to the gloomy Times correspondent who couldn’t enjoy the sunshine on August 18:

Burnley 1973

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